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  1. #1
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    Classical music speakers

    I'm fond of classical music and Jazz, going to concerts whenever possible. I have failed to learn appreciating listening to classical and Jazz music at home, the sound never is good enough, but then again, I never had good speakers either (money going to concerts rather then equipment). I'd like to change that and finally be able to also enjoy the music at home.

    The room I have is quite small - 4 meter long by 2.5 meter wide and 4 meter high and I'm looking for a pair of speakers budget of $500-600

    So I started reading up on speakers and what a steep learning curve! If I'm right, Magnepan seems to be recommended by everyone when it comes to Classical music. They also seem to get into my budget range, but I'm afraid that they will not do well in the small room.

    Can anyone confirm, or even better, suggest which way to go?

  2. #2
    Audio/HT Nut version 1.3a
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    The Maggies are wonderful but have some drawbacks for you in your budget.

    I love all kinds of music but especially like accoustic jazz as well as classical. With your budget getting the bass is difficult and expensive especially in a floorstanding speaker. Stay away from full range speakers at this price level. I suggest the following bookshelf speakers ($296/pr) and a small but excellent subwoofer ($299). This keeps the price down on the left and right speakers which will cross over to the sub at about 80hz. You will have a system that goes down rather flat to about 25-28hz. It will play very loud in your small room with a reasonably decent receiver (50 watts per channel or more) and have great bass because the amp in the sub takes over from 80 hz down. The mains are very accurate and neutral sounding with excellent soundstage and dispersion. The mains will sound good on the wall or even better away from the wall on stands. The sub should be placed somewhere along the front wall.

    Later you can add a center speaker and two small surrounds from the same exact brand and series for a surround system that will add natural sounding jazz club and concert hall ambience (a statement to which some of the purest audiophiles will turn their noses up).

    These direct to end user dealers are very well respected and offer speakers at considerably cheaper prices than their in store competition. Speakers always sound different in your room than the store. You have to try them out at home. The plus is that the shipping is free and no tax.

    http://www.axiomaudio.com/m2i_main.html

    http://www.hsuresearch.com/products/stf-1.html

    http://www.outlawaudio.com/products/lfm2.html

    RR6

  3. #3
    Audio Enthused
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    Also take a look at some of the KEF line. Accessories4less.com has some good deals on some open-box deals on them. I have the Q65.2 and they sound great with both classical and jazz. Read up on some the reviews on this site.

    Cheers.

  4. #4
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    Your right the magnepans will not do well in that size room. To sound the best they must be pulled out from the wall 1.5 to 3 feet. With that being said. they will still sound good but you will need an amp that can handle 4ohm speakers. Look into B&W 686's and NHT classic 3's.

    Road runner makes a good point. You might want to consider a pair of $300 speakers and a small 8' sub like a Mirage S8. Some nice speakers in the $300 range are the PSB alpha B's, NHT classic 2's, Wharefale Diamond 9.2's among many others. You can find the Mirage at Best Buy magnloia stores. Its a great sounding budget sub.
    Pass Labs X250 amp, BAT Vk-51se Preamp,
    Thorens TD-145 TT, Bellari phono preamp, Nagaoka MP-200 Cartridge
    Magnepan QR1.6 speakers
    Luxman DA-06 DAC
    Van Alstine Ultra Plus Hybrid Tube DAC
    Dual Martin Logan Original Dynamo Subs
    Parasound A21 amp
    Vintage Luxman T-110 tuner
    Magnepan MMG's, Grant Fidelity DAC-11, Class D CDA254 amp
    Monitor Audio S1 speakers, PSB B6 speakers
    Vintage Technic's Integrated amp
    Music Hall 25.2 CDP
    Adcom GFR 700 AVR
    Cables- Cardas, Silnote, BJC
    Velodyne CHT 8 sub

  5. #5
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    Thanks RR6!

    Quote Originally Posted by RoadRunner6
    ... I suggest the following bookshelf speakers ($296/pr) and a small but excellent subwoofer ($299)...
    RR6
    Which bookshelf speakers could do the trick, knowing that I'm used to concert quality sound?

  6. #6
    Audio/HT Nut version 1.3a
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    I'm not sure what you're asking? Do you mean which bookshelf speaker in the Axiom line or other speaker brands? In the Axiom line only the M2 is within your $600 budget. The sub is essential. As you go up in the Axiom line, as with the M3, you will get slightly more bass extention, like 10hz lower, and slightly more volume, not significant since the critical tweeter is the same and the sub will take over at about 80hz. More importantly is how you place the speakers in your room. If you are now fudging on your budget then say so.

    RR6

  7. #7
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    Go to several audio shops and listen to as many speakers in your price range. Try to listent o them on the same brand or at least same power amps and with the same or similr priced CDP's. Bring your own music and more that one CD and take your time evaluating them. We can recommend speakers, but we all hear things differently.
    I really prefer the sound of the NHT's and B&W's. I also like the sound of the infinity Beta 20's and 40's but they certainly are not as good as the other 2.
    Pass Labs X250 amp, BAT Vk-51se Preamp,
    Thorens TD-145 TT, Bellari phono preamp, Nagaoka MP-200 Cartridge
    Magnepan QR1.6 speakers
    Luxman DA-06 DAC
    Van Alstine Ultra Plus Hybrid Tube DAC
    Dual Martin Logan Original Dynamo Subs
    Parasound A21 amp
    Vintage Luxman T-110 tuner
    Magnepan MMG's, Grant Fidelity DAC-11, Class D CDA254 amp
    Monitor Audio S1 speakers, PSB B6 speakers
    Vintage Technic's Integrated amp
    Music Hall 25.2 CDP
    Adcom GFR 700 AVR
    Cables- Cardas, Silnote, BJC
    Velodyne CHT 8 sub

  8. #8
    nightflier
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    Another strategy to consider.

    Quote Originally Posted by zinneken
    Which bookshelf speakers could do the trick, knowing that I'm used to concert quality sound?
    I'm having a hard time with what you said before that you like live performances and that no speaker has satisfied your ears. And if $600 is your way to fix that, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but not much in that price will sound to your liking. The problem that I have found with speakers in that price range is that they over-emphasize the high and low frequencies at the expense of the midrange. Perhaps this is a reaction to current trends in music compression, I don't know, but it sounds pretty bad, especially on music with wide dynamic swings like classical & jazz.

    I've spent quite a bit of time with the under-$1K speakers and I simply can't recommend any of them anymore. I would recommend that you double or triple that budget and start auditioning speakers in the stores at that level. When you find some that you like, note the makes and look for those manufacturer's speakers second hand. Buying second-hand is hit or miss, but you can usually sell the speaker again for about the same that you paid for it if you don't like it.

    Also remember that some manufacturers like Magnepan, Axiom, Ohm, and Aperion will also let you audition speakers in your home and return them if you don't like the sound. You'll have to pay for shipping, but that's another chance to audition speakers in your own home which is much better than the showroom.

    Alternately you could also try and find used speakers that are from small companies (Nohr, etc.) or select models that did not enjoy wide success because of marketing blunders, but that did get good reviews (Talon, etc.).

    One final thought: what are you going to be driving these speakers with? You need an amp that matches the power handling and resistance of the speakers somewhat or else you'll have lots of problems (especially with planar speakers like the Magnepans).

  9. #9
    Super Moderator Site Moderator JohnMichael's Avatar
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    For classical might I recommend the Mobile Fidelity OML 1. The speakers sound great with all music and incredible with classical music. Normally they are fairly expensive but Music Direct has some pairs that are demos and fit in your budget.

    http://www.musicdirect.com/product/81811


    They have a very involving sound and do not become congested during complex passages. They are not forward in sound and so for me they are not tiring. My last speakers sounded like you were sitting in the front row which is not a perspective I like.
    JohnMichael
    Vinyl Rega Planar 2, Incognito rewire, Deepgroove subplatter, ceramic bearing, Michell Technoweight, Rega 24V motor, TTPSU, FunkFirm Achroplat platter, Michael Lim top and bottom braces, 2 Rega feet and one RDC cones. Grado Sonata, Moon 110 LP phono.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by nightflier
    I'm having a hard time with what you said before that you like live performances and that no speaker has satisfied your ears. And if $600 is your way to fix that, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but not much in that price will sound to your liking. ...
    That's what I feared, and why I turned to this forum. I had 2 fears, the room space and the budget for my expectations.

    The room space has already been commented on as being too small for great speakers. And I'm sure you're right regarding the budget.

    I'm not ready yet to leave the idea behind, but the last thing I want to do is be disappointed or frustrated at the speakers/system. I do have high expectations, especially as I don't know what to expect from a system vs concert. But I don't have the budget or space (I'd need the speakers, amp, and CD player for around $1500) I don't have a shop with a competence in sound for classical and jazz close to where I live, so that's why I ask you guys on this forum.

    So, is there a way for me or am I better not trying and keep on going to concerts as much as possible?

  11. #11
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    I believe the most important thing is the "source" (record or cd player) then some accoustic job and a good amp.. lastly the speaker and believe me, itíll be even better than a live experience

    Cheers

  12. #12
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    Have you considered audiophile-quality headphones? I listened to a high-end Grado set the other day, and I was astonished at the sound quality. Of course, only you will be able to participate in the experience, but it would bring you in under your budget. Waaay under your budget.
    Last edited by RoyY51; 02-02-2008 at 09:17 AM.

  13. #13
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by RoyY51
    Have you considered audiophile-quality headphones? I listened to a high-end Grado set the other day, and I was astonished at the sound quality. Of course, only you will be able to participate in the experience, but it would bring you in under your budget. Waaay under your budget.
    I'll 2nd this suggestion... I'm actually considering a pair of quality headphones, untill I'm ready to rebuild my 2 channel setup...

  14. #14
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    Check out the reviews of budget equipment at www.stereophile.com and read the reviews on budget speakers. If your looking for audiophile sound your not going to get it. But if your looking for good sound you can find it for $600.

    Do you have $1500 to spend total for an amp, CDP and speakers or is your budget just $600? If you have $1500 you can get a decent CDP like the marantz 5001 or oppo 980HD SACDP/DVDP for $250 or less. And a Harmon Kardon 3485 2ch receiver for under $300. That would leave you about $900 to $1000 for speakers.This would be a nice system with very good sound depending upon which speakers you go with.
    Pass Labs X250 amp, BAT Vk-51se Preamp,
    Thorens TD-145 TT, Bellari phono preamp, Nagaoka MP-200 Cartridge
    Magnepan QR1.6 speakers
    Luxman DA-06 DAC
    Van Alstine Ultra Plus Hybrid Tube DAC
    Dual Martin Logan Original Dynamo Subs
    Parasound A21 amp
    Vintage Luxman T-110 tuner
    Magnepan MMG's, Grant Fidelity DAC-11, Class D CDA254 amp
    Monitor Audio S1 speakers, PSB B6 speakers
    Vintage Technic's Integrated amp
    Music Hall 25.2 CDP
    Adcom GFR 700 AVR
    Cables- Cardas, Silnote, BJC
    Velodyne CHT 8 sub

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ajani
    I'll 2nd this suggestion... I'm actually considering a pair of quality headphones, untill I'm ready to rebuild my 2 channel setup...
    Thanks for the great suggestion, but not an option for me. I'm really not keen on stuff like that.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackraven
    Check out the reviews of budget equipment at www.stereophile.com and read the reviews on budget speakers. If your looking for audiophile sound your not going to get it. But if your looking for good sound you can find it for $600.

    Do you have $1500 to spend total for an amp, CDP and speakers or is your budget just $600? If you have $1500 you can get a decent CDP like the marantz 5001 or oppo 980HD SACDP/DVDP for $250 or less. And a Harmon Kardon 3485 2ch receiver for under $300. That would leave you about $900 to $1000 for speakers.This would be a nice system with very good sound depending upon which speakers you go with.
    Don't good speakers need an even better amp/cd? I read plenty of posts where people suggest to get the best possible for the amp and CD and anything upstream from the speakers. That's why I figured, 600 for the speakers, 900 for the amp and CD. Should it be the other way around?

  17. #17
    AR Junior Member sgt bass08's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zinneken
    Don't good speakers need an even better amp/cd? I read plenty of posts where people suggest to get the best possible for the amp and CD and anything upstream from the speakers. That's why I figured, 600 for the speakers, 900 for the amp and CD. Should it be the other way around?
    Yea a good amp will always push the speakers to there maxium potential .I also recommend these speakers http://www.monitoraudio.co.uk/
    I Perfer To Feel Bass On My Chest Then Not To Feel It At All

  18. #18
    Forum Regular audio amateur's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zinneken
    Don't good speakers need an even better amp/cd? I read plenty of posts where people suggest to get the best possible for the amp and CD and anything upstream from the speakers. That's why I figured, 600 for the speakers, 900 for the amp and CD. Should it be the other way around?
    Believe me, you should spend more on the speakers for now. What is your total budget?

  19. #19
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by zinneken
    Don't good speakers need an even better amp/cd? I read plenty of posts where people suggest to get the best possible for the amp and CD and anything upstream from the speakers. That's why I figured, 600 for the speakers, 900 for the amp and CD. Should it be the other way around?
    That's a really hotly debated issue.... but my take on it is this:

    First you find a pair of speakers you really love, then you can upgrade the rest of your equipment to get the best out of your speakers....

  20. #20
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by zinneken
    Thanks for the great suggestion, but not an option for me. I'm really not keen on stuff like that.
    LOL....

    For just over $1500...

    I'd probably go for

    Monitor Audio RS6 Loudspeakers (MSRP $1000)
    NAD C315BEE Integrated Amp (MSRP $350)
    NAD C515BEE CD Player (MSRP $300)

    Total MSRP $1650.... But you could probably get it for $1500 if you look around...

    And if you already have a DVD player, then you could scrap the CD Player for now, thus bringing the cost down to $1350....

  21. #21
    Suspended topspeed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by starson
    I believe the most important thing is the "source" (record or cd player) then some accoustic job and a good amp.. lastly the speaker and believe me, it’ll be even better than a live experience
    You think so, huh? I've have never, ever, evereverevereverever heard any rig that can replicate a live performance, and I've had the good fortune to hear some pretty nice set-ups. It's simply impossible. Even Harry Pearson of The Absolute Sound admits this, and he has multiple "reference" rigs at Sea Cliff. You might be able to replicate certain aspects of a live performance, but that's about it. There are simply too many variables.

    To the OP:
    Forget trying to recreate "concert quality" sound. It won't happen until you hire the local philharmonic to play at your house every week. Instead focus on getting a set of speakers that allow you to enjoy music. How much will they cost? I have no idea. Only you can determine how much energy and money will need to invested in order for you to receive the level of satisfaction you are seeking. The good news is, there is no set price point for this point. Indeed, you may be able to put a rig together that does everything you want for far less than you imagined. That's a large part of the fun in this hobby!

    Good luck!

  22. #22
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    You will generally get better sound using good sounding speakers and an average amp then average speakers and a good amp, as long as you have the proper amount of power for the speakers. In building a system you want to start with the best speakers that you can afford that will fit into your budget. Then consider a decent amp and CDP. Your amp will generally sound only as good as your speakers. But poor speakers will make a great amp sound like crap. If you skimp on the speakers you will regret it.

    That Harmon Kardon 2ch receiver 3485 ($244 on sale at amazon) has very good sound and lots of relatively high current power at 120wpc and 45 peak amps. It should give pretty good sound with just about any $1000 speaker you buy. It's got pre-amp and sub out's so you can up grade to a seperate amp later on or add a subwoofer.

    Good budget CDP's are the Marantz 5001 for under $300 (many people on this forum have this CDP), MusicHall 25.2 for about $500, Cambridge 640 for $600 and the best deal the oppo 980HD for $169. The oppo is a universal player and many peolpe use it as an SACDP as well as a DVDP. Hope this helps some.

    By the way, you might want to look into the B&W 684's for about $1K. They are floor standers and sound great. They would be my choice for a $1K speaker if I didnt have the room for the magnepan MG12's. Pair these with the HK receiver and the Oppo and you'll have excellent sound and you can always upgrade the CDP and amp at a later time for great sound. Total cost would be about $1600.
    Last edited by blackraven; 02-05-2008 at 08:39 AM.
    Pass Labs X250 amp, BAT Vk-51se Preamp,
    Thorens TD-145 TT, Bellari phono preamp, Nagaoka MP-200 Cartridge
    Magnepan QR1.6 speakers
    Luxman DA-06 DAC
    Van Alstine Ultra Plus Hybrid Tube DAC
    Dual Martin Logan Original Dynamo Subs
    Parasound A21 amp
    Vintage Luxman T-110 tuner
    Magnepan MMG's, Grant Fidelity DAC-11, Class D CDA254 amp
    Monitor Audio S1 speakers, PSB B6 speakers
    Vintage Technic's Integrated amp
    Music Hall 25.2 CDP
    Adcom GFR 700 AVR
    Cables- Cardas, Silnote, BJC
    Velodyne CHT 8 sub

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by topspeed
    ... I've have never, ever, evereverevereverever heard any rig that can replicate a live performance ...

    Forget trying to recreate "concert quality" sound. It won't happen until you hire the local philharmonic to play at your house every week. Instead focus on getting a set of speakers that allow you to enjoy music...
    Thanks topspeed, at least the bitter truth comes out. I understand through this thread that I'll have to lower my "live performance on a home set-up" expectations. Not happy about this reality, but at least you guys tell me this while a shop salesguy wouldn't have the thought of telling this truth ... Livesaving! Thanks!

    Quote Originally Posted by blackraven
    You will generally get better sound using good sounding speakers and an average amp then average speakers and a good amp, as long as you have the proper amount of power for the speakers. In building a system you want to start with the best speakers that you can afford that will fit into your budget. Then consider a decent amp and CDP. Your amp will generally sound only as good as your speakers. But poor speakers will make a great amp sound like crap. If you skimp on the speakers you will regret it...
    Thanks Blackraven, I think this should be a sticky "read this first" sort of thing on this forum (well, at least for newbie's like me).

    So, the original idea was a budget of 1500 for Amp, CDP, speakers of which I originally thought 5-600 for the speakers. This great thread and all the help for you guys scrapped this original thought. I would have been soooooooo wrong!

    Now, my sister has some stuff around her place and reading through this post... Am I right in scrapping the budget for a CDP by using her old DVD player (an LG DVD 5083) as CDP and taking the budget I would have spent on a CDP on getting better speakers? I surely love the idea, but does it make sense?
    Taking that idea further, should I use her Sony STR DE485E (a DVD surround sound thing she used to put on her TV, she now has a new one, I don't get people spending money on TV when you can get live sound, but that's just me having a go since she doesn't get why I put down all that money to go to classical and Jazz concerts) as an amp substitute and take the amp budget also for getting better speakers?

    If that makes sense, I end up with a budget of 1500 for speakers alone. I would so love that, but does it make any sense or is the quality on these items just too low/screwing the quality the speakers otherwise give?

  24. #24
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by zinneken
    Thanks topspeed, at least the bitter truth comes out. I understand through this thread that I'll have to lower my "live performance on a home set-up" expectations. Not happy about this reality, but at least you guys tell me this while a shop salesguy wouldn't have the thought of telling this truth ... Livesaving! Thanks!



    Thanks Blackraven, I think this should be a sticky "read this first" sort of thing on this forum (well, at least for newbie's like me).

    So, the original idea was a budget of 1500 for Amp, CDP, speakers of which I originally thought 5-600 for the speakers. This great thread and all the help for you guys scrapped this original thought. I would have been soooooooo wrong!

    Now, my sister has some stuff around her place and reading through this post... Am I right in scrapping the budget for a CDP by using her old DVD player (an LG DVD 5083) as CDP and taking the budget I would have spent on a CDP on getting better speakers? I surely love the idea, but does it make sense?
    Taking that idea further, should I use her Sony STR DE485E (a DVD surround sound thing she used to put on her TV, she now has a new one, I don't get people spending money on TV when you can get live sound, but that's just me having a go since she doesn't get why I put down all that money to go to classical and Jazz concerts) as an amp substitute and take the amp budget also for getting better speakers?

    If that makes sense, I end up with a budget of 1500 for speakers alone. I would so love that, but does it make any sense or is the quality on these items just too low/screwing the quality the speakers otherwise give?
    It's what I would do in your position.... much later on down the road, you could always upgrade the Sony and/or the LG..... $1,500 for a pair of speakers is actually a really good budget....

    I'd sugest listening to as many speakers in the $1K to $1.5K range as possible to determine the kind of sound you like....

    Some of the Major players to consider are:

    Revel Concerta Series
    B&W 600 series
    Monitor Audio Silver Series
    PSB Image Series
    Focal Chorus 700 Series

  25. #25
    Suspended topspeed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zin
    I would so love that, but does it make any sense or is the quality on these items just too low/screwing the quality the speakers otherwise give?
    Therein lies the conundrum faced by all audio enthusiasts: As your speakers become more revealing, they will open up great recordings and expose nuances you never knew existed on the recording. Unfortunately, they also reveal every shortcoming with the front end, particularly bad recordings. It's the old "Truth or Beauty?" argument.

    Here's the thing, speakers vary dramatically in sound from one another. You've got dynamics, planars, transmission line, acoustic suspension, bass reflex, 'stats, etc., and they all have their strengths and weaknesses. It all depends on what sounds best to you. You'll hear a lot of people tell you that for classical, panel speakers (planars/'stats) are the best...and yet 80% of all classical recordings are mastered using dynamic speakers (B&W, to be specific). So who's right? Both, naturally.

    There are differences in front end components, to be sure. Not all cdp's sound the same, not all amps sound the same. However, they are not night and day differences like speakers. It's more subtle and, depending on your speakers, may not be perceptible at all.

    I'd dedicate the majority of your budget to speakers and then go from there. If you can use the Sony for now, go for it. Upgrade the CDP first. Blackraven's suggestions are an excellent starting point. You might also consider buying used from audiogon.com, a site populated with audiophiles that generally take excellent care of their gear, or factory authorized Bstock from ecost.com. Spearitsound.com is also a fun place to look.

    Hope this helps.

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